WHAT ARE DRAGON BONES?
Category: History
Tags: Ancient history Charlotte Mason Elementary grades Bible civilizations

DO YOU KNOW WHAT DRAGON BONES ARE? If not, read this free excerpt below from Honour of Kings' Ancient and American History Book 1.


 

Ox scapula with a divination inscription from the Shang Dynasty, dating to the reign of King Wu Ding. Unearthed at Anyang, Henan Province. Held at the National Museum of China in Beijing. Photo by BabelStone 2011

The discovery of physical proof of the Shang dynasty happened because of an illness. Just before 1900, the director of the Imperial College in China (Wang Yirong) was sick with malaria. His doctor told him to take Long gu (Dragon Bones) as medicine. (Dragon bones are fossilized animal bones that are ground into a powder. They have high amounts of calcium, potassium, and sodium.)

Director Wang noticed that some of the bones at the pharmacy were carved with inscriptions. He believed that they might be early Chinese texts. He sent his assistant to find out where the bones came from and eventually, it was determined that the origin was a little village named Xiaotun. This site is now called Yinxu and it is located on the west side of Anyang city, China. Yinxu is located just north of the Yellow River and is believed to have been the last capital of the Shang dynasty of China.

In 1917, Wang Guowei was able to decipher the portion of some writing on the bones that contained the Shang kings. This allowed him to construct a genealogy which was very similar to list found in the history of China written by the Grand Historian Sima Qian. This caused archaeologists to become even more interested in these bones.

Historians soon called these bones "oracle bones" because they contained information about the Shang dynasty of China. The oracle bones were formed when a king or his magicians would use a hot poker to produce cracks in a turtle shell or cattle shoulder bone while they asked a question which they wanted answered. They would look at the cracks to see if they had gotten a favorable or unfavorable answer to the question. The engravers would then carve the question, the answer, and sometimes even the result into the bone or shell. From these oracle bones, archaeologists have learned that the Shang dynasty had a well-developed and organized written language.

 

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